Stuart Poynter has effectively called time on his international career with Ireland after committing to Durham in a new two-year deal.
Poynter, Durham’s wicketkeeper and captain during this season’s Vitality Blast campaign, was forced to choose between club and country following a change to the ECB’s eligibility rules in September, in the wake of Ireland’s promotion to a Full Test Nation in 2017.
Prior to that change, all Ireland players – along with other passport-holders from EU member countries – had been permitted to play as homegrown players in county cricket. Now they have to register as overseas players, which Poynter has chosen to do.
Born in Hammersmith, London, Poynter has previously spoken out about his disappointment at the change of ruling, telling The Telegraph “it is a strange scenario when you are born British and have entitlement to work as a local in your own country.”
Poynter’s decision was perhaps made easier by the disappointment he suffered earlier this year when he was dropped by Ireland following a run of poor form. He made 15 runs in four ODI innings in their series against Afghanistan in Dehradun and followed that with scores of 0 and 1 in the one-off Test that followed against the same opponents.
He was omitted in favour of Gary Wilson for the subsequent tri-series against West Indies and Bangladesh on home soil, and Wilson – who left Derbyshire last year to play full time in Ireland’s domestic competition – then kept his place for their maiden Test against England at Lord’s in July.
Richard Holdsworth, Performance Director at Cricket Ireland, thanked Poynter for his services to Irish cricket.
“He has certainly been one of a cohort of players who has been part of the rapid climb of Irish cricket over the last decade from Associate Member to Full Member with Test match status, and I’m pleased for Stuart personally that he played in a Test match before he finished with international duties,” Holdsworth said in a statement issued by Cricket Ireland.
“We wish Stuart and his family well with the next phase in their lives and hope that we see him regularly supporting the Irish team as we ourselves move into the next phase of our development.”
Poynter’s decision comes a month after his Ireland team-mate, Paul Stirling, chose the alternative route, and ended his 10-year association with Middlesex to further his international aspirations.
Stirling’s Middlesex team-mate, Tim Murtagh, is the other county-based Ireland player who has yet to confirm his decision. At the age of 38, Murtagh is nearing the end of his career either way, but remains a formidable performer, as shown by his haul of 5 for 13 on the first morning of the Lord’s Test, when England were bowled out for 85.
With a highest score of 36 in 21 ODI appearances, Poynter never quite showed his best form in his Ireland career, although he did enjoy one notable moment in a T20 against the Netherlands in February, when he struck a last-ball six to seal a one-wicket win.
However, at the age of 28, he could also have anticipated plenty more opportunities in international cricket, given that Wilson turns 34 in the new year, and that Ireland’s long-term keeper, Niall O’Brien, retired last year.
The announcement of his two-year deal with Durham comes as the club offered the same extension to two other players: Liam Trevaskis, who has cemented his status as the club’s first-choice spinner across formats, and Jack Burnham, who served a year-long suspension for recreational drug use in 2018, but recorded four Championship half-centuries on his return to the team this summer.